THE CHINESE PEOPLE 21
Enormous is the earth, And the sky is a deep blue; The wind blows, the tall grass bends, And the sheep and cattle come into view.
It was with this song that a northern general, after suffering a heavy defeat, rallied his soldiers and sent them again to battle. And in contrast to the southern songs of love, we have a general singing about a newly bought broadsword:
I have just bought me a five-Foot knife, 1 swing it with a gleaming cadence. I fondle it three times a day, I won't change it for fifteen maidens!
Another song handed down to us reads:
In the distance I descry the Mengchin river,
The willows and poplars stand in silent grace.
I am a Mongol's son,
And don't know Chinese lays.
A good rider requires a swift horse,
And a swift horse requires a good rider.
When it clatters off amidst a cloud of dust,
You know then who wins and who's the outsider.1
Lines like these open up a vista of speculation as to the differences of northern and southern blood that went into the make-up of the Chinese race, and seem to make it possible to understand how a nation subjected to two thousand years of kowtowing and indoor living and a civilization without popular sports could avoid the fate of civic racial degeneration that overtook Egypt, Greece and Rome and the other ancient civilizations. How has China done it?
These songs are quoted by Dr Hu Shih in support of the same thesis.